Warning: This Rift Uprising series review contains spoilers for the series.
Genetically-enhanced teenaged super soldiers, forbidden love, and a conspiracy spanning multiple worlds form the framework of Amy S. Foster’s Rift Uprising series. The latest in the series, Rift Coda has just been published, so maybe you’d like to know what you’re getting into before taking the plunge.
Keep in mind: this will be spoilery (though I’ll try to avoid the worst so you can still enjoy some revelations). The first book will be heavily spoiled since I can’t discuss the other two without mentioning those plot developments.
In Rift Uprising, we are introduced to Ryn Whittaker and her squad of teenage soldiers called Citadels. They are part of ARC, a program that has secretly made genetically enhanced children to be super fast and strong in order to protect the world from the many potentially dangerous Immigrants who unwittingly come to our Earth through a rift in space-time.
These Citadels are given their incredible power thanks to the technology of the Roones, a species who came through the rift and warn the humans that they need special foot soldiers to protect the Earth from dangerous beings.
A major point of tension within this fictional world is the Blood Lust, a compulsory violent reaction the Citadels experience whenever they feel anything resembling love or lust. It’s a failsafe built into them to supposedly keep them on mission at all times, but what it does is make a lot of teenagers really pissed off about what they can’t do. They can’t share an intimate touch or so much as a hug without nearly ripping someone’s head off. It’s a really inhumane way to keep the Citadels in line, and they soldiers actively fight against these brainwashed instincts throughout the series.
By the end of Rift Uprising, we find that the Roones are not the kindly helpers they appear to be. Creating the Citadels was something they had planned all along, and they have orchestrated an elaborate web of lies to keep their soldiers in line, fighting a battle where enemy lines are sometimes hard to dilineate.
It is here that Ryn meets Ezra, a handsome guy who comes through the rift. Ryn promises him she will make sure he’s okay after he’s escorted to where Immigrants are held. It’s that promise that lands Ryn solidly on the path to discover all of what ARC and the Roones have hidden from her and her fellows, and into a war that spans the Multiverse.
Of course, she falls in love with Ezra.
In this first book, we get to see how much of a trained badass Ryn really is, as she and her team make quick work of the more violent visitors to our world. The action scenes are well written and the conversational tone that Ryn uses throughout her adventures never let us forget that she could have been a normal teenager had ARC never taken her for their program.
Our eyes are also opened to the horrors of this secret battle they have been fighting. Ryn finds out where the Immigrants go and how ARC has been subtly controlling the Citadels to follow protocol. The Immigrants that aren’t killed are placed in The Villages, a simulated combination of towns that is really just a fancy prison. They can’t return home and are forced to speak English and humanize. There’s a lot to unpack there. Suffice to say it’s good for scifi and a great mirror to hold up when society deems something “other” as bad.
There are layers here – how far is Ryn willing to go to uncover the truth? Who is the real enemy and what have they been planning? Ryn’s visit to the Villages opens her eyes and expands her heart.
Ryn and fellow Citadel Levi travel the Multiverse, hopping from alternate Earth to alternate Earth, gaining intel and learning more about the scope of the Roone’s betrayal. Citadels of all different species exist on multiple Earths. Some are willing to join in the fight.
In Ryn’s travels, we see all different types of peoples, from the winged Faida to the impish Daithi and the bear-like Orsalines. Most of the character designs aren’t the most original we’ve seen. Most seem to be a mashup of fantasy tropes. We even saw vampires and a unicorn in the previous book. For the most part, the series keeps to a sci-fi angle, though fantasy influences can be seen throughout.
A favorite world is that of the SenMachs. These robot people are a relic of a world that has seen normal flesh-and-blood humans go extinct. The SenMachs supply Ryn with tools that will make the journey easier. It’s a bit of a literal deus ex machina situation. The tech that Ryn aquires is a little too good, but I let it go for coolness points.
Unfortunately, this is the book where we’re introduced to a love triangle. Ryn is torn between deprogramming Levi from his Blood Lust (so they can travel together without him violently attacking her) and Ezra, who has become a jealous boyfriend. The inclusion of the love triangle is my biggest complaint about the series. Levi and Ryn have no chemistry and Levi is a bit of a jerk for being annoyed at Ryn having a boyfriend. I’m tired of this trope and would like to see it reframed in a fresh light.
Rift Coda is the “assemble the troops” book until it leads to the final climactic fight for power. Ryn has allied with the Faida, and they need some other species on the same page in order to fight the insurmountable armies the Roones control. It’s a numbers game, and the math is not in their favor.
Ryn also has to deal with matters of the heart as – surprise, surprise – it’s a big angsty struggle between her potential feelings for Levi and her feelings for Ezra. Will they? Won’t they? Don’t you guys have a Multiverse spanning war to fight? Well who cares about that because we’re going to waste way too much time on Ryn’s love life, a romantic life I might add she’s only had for a short time.
What this book does well is show the reality and horror of war. Ryn gets enough experience from her travels and all the secrets she’s uncovered about ARC and the Roones to realize they have to be stopped from doing this again. There are some brutal moments, both what happens to the good guys and what Ryn does with her own hands. It’s bloody and visceral and it makes you sit upright as you read each word in anticipation. Our protagonists are not infallible. There will be casualties and hard choices.
“No child wakes up and imagines themselves to be anything other than the hero of his or her own story,” Ryn narrates as she spies some of the human cost of the final battle. She’s right.
Oh and all that “will they, won’t they” love triangle nonsense is resolved in a lackluster way, in my humble opinion. One of the characters in question is written off about thirty pages from the end with not so much as a how-do-you-do. I actually had to turn back the pages after finishing the book to figure out where he disappeared.
The Rift Uprising series is chock full of super-soldier battles and otherworldly creatures, but keeps itself grounded with enough human drama and pop culture references to land on The CW. Although I had some problems with the plot here and there, namely the tired love triangle, these books kept up a good pace and delivered on enough change of scenery and bone-jarring hits to keep you going for the action alone.
Ryn is a protagonist we can root for. She feels like a real person thrust between a rock and a hard place. The Roones are diabolical and you really want to see the Citadels enact their brand of justice on them. There are moments of brilliance, and there are moments where you will likely get frustrated with our character’s choices. The Rift Uprising is fun, but it’s not treading new ground.
For action-y sci-fi thrills you might want to hitch your wagon to this rift and just enjoy the ride.
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